Infectious Diseases Data Verified


Written by
Dr. Sneha Kannan
and medically reviewed by Dr. Yeshwanth Kumar

Published on Jul 25, 2019   -  4 min read



Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) that causes pain and other symptoms in the genital tract in both men and women. Read the article to know more.


What Is Gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted bacterial infection that can affect both men and women. The bacteria responsible is Neisseria gonorrhoeae, which commonly affects warm and moist parts of the body. The common parts that get infected are urethra, vagina, anus, eyes, throat, cervix, uterus, and fallopian tubes. It can also spread to babies during childbirth from an infected mother.

You can get infected through unprotected oral, vaginal, or anal sex. People who have multiple sex partners are more at risk of getting infected. Alcoholism and drug abuse encourage people to have unprotected sex, thus making them vulnerable to sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. The ways to prevent these infections are by practicing safe sex, sexual abstinence, or avoiding multiple sexual partners (practice monogamy).

What Are the Symptoms of Gonorrhea?

People generally notice symptoms after 2 days to 2 weeks after being exposed. But, some do not show any symptoms and are called nonsymptomatic carriers. Such people tend to spread this infection, as they are not aware that they might be infected.

The symptom in women are:

  • Watery or white creamy vaginal discharge.

  • Pain or burning sensation on peeing.

  • Increased urge to urinate.

  • Frequent urination.

  • Pain during sex.

  • Sore throat.

  • Intermenstrual bleeding or spotting.

  • Fever.

  • Sharp abdominal pain.

The symptoms in men are:

  • Burning or pain on urination.

  • Increased urge to urinate.

  • Frequent urination.

  • Pus discharge from the penis opening.

  • The opening of the penis might be red and swollen.

  • Testicles might get swollen or tender.

  • Sore throat.

If gonorrhea affects other body parts, the symptoms include:

  • Anal itching.

  • Pus discharge from rectum.

  • Blood in stools.

  • Eye pain.

  • Sensitivity to light.

  • Eye discharge.

  • Lymph node enlargement in the neck.

  • Swollen and painful joints (septic arthritis).

In babies, gonorrhea usually affects the eyes.

What Causes Gonorrhea?

As already mentioned, gonorrhea is caused by the bacteria Neisseria gonorrhoeae through vaginal, anal, or oral sex.

What Are the Risk Factors of Gonorrhea?

The risk factors include:

  • New sex partner.

  • Multiple sexual partners.

  • Having unprotected sex.

  • Previous gonorrhea infection.

  • Young age.

  • Drug abuse.

  • History of other sexually transmitted diseases.

What Are the Tests Done to Diagnose Gonorrhea?

After taking a complete medical history, if your doctor suspects gonorrhea, you might be asked to perform the following tests to determine the presence of gonorrhea bacteria in your body:

  • Urine test - Your urine is checked for bacteria.

  • Swab test from the affected part - A swab is taken from your vagina, rectum, throat, etc., to look for the bacteria.

As gonorrhea increases the risk of other sexually transmitted diseases, your doctor might also suggest you undergo tests to infections like chlamydia and HIV.

What Is the Treatment for Gonorrhea?

As it is a bacterial infection, gonorrhea is treated with antibiotics. The treatment options for uncomplicated gonorrhea are:

  1. Injection Ceftriaxone and oral Azithromycin or Doxycycline.

  2. Oral or injection Gentamicin and oral Azithromycin (in case the patient is allergic to Cephalosporins).

Drug-resistant strains of gonorrhea are increasing, which makes the treatment more challenging. The antibiotic-resistant variant is treated with a seven-day course of two oral antibiotics, mostly Azithromycin and Doxycycline.

Even if your partner has no signs or symptoms of gonorrhea, he or she must undergo the treatment at the same time. Babies born to infected mothers are given antibiotic eye drops to prevent infection.

Avoid having sexual intercourse during and for 7 days after your treatment.

What Are the Complications of Gonorrhea?

If left untreated, gonorrhea can:

  • Spread to the uterus and fallopian tube, resulting in pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). This can cause scarring of the fallopian tubes and infertility in females.

  • Spread and cause inflammation of the epididymis (epididymitis), which can make a man infertile if not treated.

  • Infect the joints and bloodstream resulting in rashes, fever, joint pain and stiffness.

  • Increase your risk of getting infected with HIV.

  • Result in blindness and infection in babies.

How Can Gonorrhea Be Prevented?

Follow these tips to reduce the risk of gonorrhea:

  • Abstinence from sex.

  • Use a condom during sex.

  • Change the condom between each sexual act.

  • Get yourself and your partner tested for sexually transmitted infections.

  • Avoid having sex with a partner who has genital sores or rashes.

  • Avoid having multiple sexual partners.

  • Regularly get screened for gonorrhea.

  • Avoid unprotected sex.

It is important that the treatment be done together for a couple, even if one of them do not show any sign or symptom. As you might get reinfected by your partner after the treatment. If you or your partner is suffering from symptoms of gonorrhea, consult a doctor online immediately.


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Frequently Asked Questions


How do you get gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted infection and it spreads through unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex.


How is gonorrhea spread?

The bacteria Neisseria gonorrhoeae that cause gonorrhea can enter your body through unprotected sexual intercourse and can grow and infect moist body parts like urethra, cervix, vagina, eyes, throat, and eyes.


How to test for gonorrhea?

The two tests that are done to diagnose gonorrhea are urine test and swab test. The urine and the sample from the swab are tested for the presence of bacteria Neisseria gonorrhoeae.


What does it feel like when you have gonorrhea?

Most people do not show any symptoms even after getting infected. But if you have symptoms, you might have burning or paining during urination, sore throat, frequent urination, and increased urge to urinate, and abdominal pain. In men, testicles become red and swollen and pus discharge from the penis can be seen. In women, it can cause spotting and pain during sex.


How long can you have gonorrhea without knowing?

50 % of woman and 10 % of men do not exhibit any gonorrhea symptoms for months or days. They might not even realize that they are infected. It is best to get tested for gonorrhea periodically.


Does gonorrhea make you tired?

If left untreated, later stages of gonorrhea can make you tired and fatigue.


Does gonorrhea affect the brain?

It is rare but in untreated and longstanding gonorrhea, the bacteria can spread through the bloodstream to the joints, heart, and brain.


What are the first symptoms of gonorrhea?

The early symptoms of gonorrhea are painful urination, pain during sex, abdominal or pelvic pain, swollen testicles, pain during passing stools, and increased vaginal secretion.


Does oral gonorrhea clear on its own?

Oral gonorrhea needs to be treated with antibiotics, as it will not clear on its own. You should avoid oral sex and kissing until you are treated.

Last reviewed at:
25 Jul 2019  -  4 min read




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